Whiplash in the West Wing

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Image: President Donald Trump speaks to reporters before boarding Air Force One in Morristown, N.J., on Aug. 18, 2019.
President Donald Trump speaks to reporters before boarding Air Force One in Morristown, N.J., on Aug. 18, 2019.Patrick Semansky / AP

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By Chuck Todd, Mark Murray and Carrie Dann

WASHINGTON — It’s Year 3 of Donald Trump’s presidency, and his behavior in office isn’t getting better.

Instead, it’s getting worse.

On Tuesday night, the president said he was cancelling a trip to Denmark — a U.S. ally — because it wouldn’t sell Greenland to the United States. (Who else thought the Greenland story was a joke when they first saw it?)

“Denmark is a very special country with incredible people, but based on Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen’s comments, that she would have no interest in discussing the purchase of Greenland, I will be postponing our meeting scheduled in two weeks for another time,” Trump tweeted.

And just hours earlier, in discussing Reps. Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib being denied entry into Israel, Trump said this about American Jews: “I think any Jewish people that vote for a Democrat, I think it shows either a total lack of knowledge or great disloyalty.”

This is no way to run a country. Or to talk about its citizens. Or to treat an American ally.

Everyone who works in Washington knows this. Staff members at the White House know this. Top officials inside the Republican Party know this.

Yet here we are.

Talk about mixed messages

By the way, it’s hard to take anyone seriously — let alone a presidential administration — when you say one thing and then say another just a day or two later.

Consider these statements, as Politico noted this morning:

Trump on Sunday: “We’re going to Poland and then we may be going to Denmark — not for this reason at all [to purchase Greenland]. But we’re looking at it. It’s not number one on the burner.”

Trump on Tuesday night: “Denmark is a very special country with incredible people, but based on Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen’s comments, that she would have no interest in discussing the purchase of Greenland, I will be postponing our meeting scheduled in two weeks for another time....”

The Trump White House on Monday: “A White House official said more tax cuts were on the table, ‘but cutting payroll taxes is not something that is under consideration at this time.’ Another senior administration official cautioned that a payroll tax cut was not under serious consideration.”

Trump on Tuesday: “Payroll tax is something that we think about and a lot of people would like to see that, and that very much affects the working — the workers of our country.”

If you’re not supposed to believe half of what the president or his administration says, then what’s the half you’re supposed to believe?

Tweet of the day

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Data Download: The number of the day is … 79 percent

79 percent.

That’s the share of Jewish voters who reported voting for Democratic House candidates in the 2018 midterms, compared with just 17 percent who voted for Republicans, according to exit polls.

In the 2016 presidential election, 71 percent of Jewish voters supported Hillary Clinton, while just 23 percent voted for Trump.

2020 Vision: Turn the radio up — for that sweet sound

Pete Buttigieg’s campaign is going up with two radio ads in Iowa that emphasize rural America.

“When the President gets on Twitter to brag about the high-stakes game he’s playing with China, he’s not seeing the same rural America that I see,” Buttigieg says in one ad.

And here’s Buttigieg in the other: “As a veteran of the war in Afghanistan, I saw firsthand the sacrifice made by those in uniform...and I noticed how many of them came from places that look a lot more like South Bend than the big coastal cities,” he says. “It’s one reason that the Buttigieg Plan will expand opportunities for veterans -- providing those who’ve served with two weeks of training on what it takes to start a small business...followed by a $10,000 grant to help transform a good idea into a successful company.”

On the campaign trail today

Most of the 2020 Dem field addresses the Iowa Federal of Labor convention in Altoona, Iowa… And the candidates make other appearances in the Hawkeye State… Julian Castro holds a “Caucus for Kids” roundtable in Des Moines… Beto O’Rourke stumps in Marshalltown and Des Moines… Joe Biden hits Ankeny and Newton… Bernie Sanders holds a health-care town hall in Des Moines… Steve Bullock is in Des Moines… Elizabeth Warren holds a town hall in Los Angeles… And Cory Booker raises money in L.A.

Dispatches from NBC’s embeds

Bernie Sanders responded to President Trump’s comments regarding American Jews voting for Democrats while at a campaign rally in Sioux City, Iowa. NBC’s Gary Grumbach reports his remarks, “If you are Jewish, I gather, to be a loyal American, you gotta vote for Donald Trump and Republicans. Well, let me say this to the president: I am a proud Jewish person, and I have no concerns about voting Democratic. And in fact, I intend to vote for a Jewish man to become the next president of the United States.”

John Delaney spoke at the Native American Presidential forum where, as NBC’s Benjamin Pu reports, Delaney may have hurt his case with Native American voters. When asked by an indigenous reporter if he’d commit to issuing a presidential apology to the Native American community, Delaney responded, “I haven't thought at all about this notion of a general apology, and it's not something I had thought about. So I obviously do support specific apologies, because I went on stage and that's one of the first things I said as that the fact that the Congress of the United States in the 70s actually officially apologized for that massacre, so I obviously support apologies around specific situations. But I have no perspective on a general apology.”

The Lid: Hope springs eternal

Don’t miss the pod from yesterday, when we looked at Joe Biden’s electability argument.

ICYMI: News clips you shouldn’t miss

Trump’s own advisors aren’t as calm as the president when it comes to looming economic fears. (And here’s the latest on what Trump has said about a payroll tax cut.)

NBC’s Amanda Golden interviewed Kirsten Gillibrand about the opioid crisis.

Here’s various GOP primary challenges to Trump stand. (Spoiler: Joe Walsh is among those readying a bid.)

Trump reportedly told Wayne LaPierre that background checks are now off the table.

Trump Agenda: Loyalty test

Here’s how some in the Jewish community are reacting to Trump’s latest comments.

Local leaders in Afghanistan worry that Taliban defectors could join forces with ISIS.

Coal workers are fighting for pension plans and benefits despite Trump’s praise of the industry.

The president is arguing that Russia should be re-admitted to the G-7.

2020: State of the advertising race

Ben Kamisar sums up the 2020 TV ad-buying to date.

Outside money is making a big splash in Maine’s Senate race.

Trump’s team is telling donors about the possibility of a “moderate” recession.